How does fear take hold? When does it grab at you? Where can you feel its tug? Can you feel it altering your sensibilities? Hard to imagine a time when fear did not dominate our headlines and lives, but even in the hold of fear I can remember a more fearless me. Standing up and demanding regardless of outcome. That late twenty-something me who seemed to defy gravity. Just reaching for it. Of course I can also remember a timid me too. A frozen and quiet me, creeping around high school, falling into black holes. But this today me, who has built a solid foundation on steady outcomes, this one now wakes in the still-dark dawn and has to talk herself into calmness through deep breathing, just to return to the school building yet another day; this me is struggling. They want us to arm kids with heavy shit, barricade our classroom doors, and teach them to strategize their way to safety despite the AK-15 aimed in their direction. Fear has entered the curriculum, but I suppose, as long as the NRA controls our lawmakers, I need to find my bravery.
As always I move through metaphor: As Without So Within. What’s my first step? Strap on downhill skis (first time in a decade) and send myself straight down the mountain. Well, after heading up first.
This week, in small towns and big cities, from coast to coast and border to border, students walked out of their school building with one common message: enough is enough. Witness our next generation of voters. They’re organized. On the move. Asking the tough questions to legislators and senators and even our president about gun control and school safety and what they’re going to do to return to civility. They’re ready to tackle the hard stuff. And these high school students will be registered voters in 2020, remembering who listened to their pleas, who is looking after them.
When I was in high school there was a smoking room in my boarding-school dorm. Back then people smoked everywhere. Doctors smoked in their office. The dentist smoked between drilling and filling. Adults smoked in living rooms and cars, even while reading nite-nite books to their toddler. Every restaurant, tavern, and airplane accommodated smokers. Yet now, there are whole cites that have banned smoking in all public areas. Why? Because of the simple fact that tobacco smoke, even second-hand, kills you. Yes, that’s a real fact. So how did this highly-funded-lying-lobbying industry lose its voice? “The lobby began to lose power as the industry lost credibility, Brandt said” (Keck). In hindsight change from the false to the true seems simple enough, even a lie with sex-appeal and allure, once we stop believing in it.
“We should have fixed it.” Andrew Pollack made a passionate plea, didn’t he? Will we listen?
I must admit, there is a labyrinth one can easily fall down when you start to untangle this mess of gun violence plaguing our America. But I do believe we are beginning to see a horizon.
Where to start? Get informed. Not from Twitter. Or Facebook. Maybe not anywhere on social media. But by speaking to people in your community. Ask how many guns they have in their household. Ask them if they are locked. Ask how do they see a way to keep all citizens safe. This hard discussion needs the full participation of gun owners. They must come to the table. These are their weapons, and if they want them in circulation, they must figure this one out. With you. And me. Face to face.
I’m sorry, but what else could I write about today? While my students participate in Vermont Writes Day, spurred on by 7 compelling prompts, I am halted by nonsensical bloodshed. Not drawn to write about the fantastical, no, not an imaginary letter to the bloat king who degrades our White House, nor a whisper coming from the phone either, not even the kindness which does come in abundance to my doorway, but me, shroud in a gray sheet of helplessness, naked and invisible. I cannot fathom how many children must be gunned down before we all throw our mistempered weapons to the ground.
“In the five years since the shooting, which transformed a fairly anonymous Connecticut town into a buzzword in the caustic national debate on gun violence, armed men have killed people at a nightclub, an outdoor music festival, a social services center, movie theaters, a church in South Carolina and a church in Texas.
The displays of grief follow a familiar routine: Candlelight vigils and makeshift memorials. National offerings of thoughts and prayers. Pleas to tighten gun laws, immediately trailed by calls to avoid politicizing a tragedy” (Rojas and Kristin Hussey).
Perhaps it is the sea of fake news we find ourselves drowning in, or perhaps the spew of lies that click so easily off Trump’s digits, whatever the reason, I am drawn more and more to reading the “confessional poets” of yesteryear. Those original ones, who cared little for the moniker but much for “focusing on extreme moments of individual experience, the psyche, and personal trauma, including previously and occasionally still taboo matters” (Confessional poetry). Plath, Lowell, Sexton. They broke repression and oppression. Wove the atrocities of the Nazis into autobiographical poetry. Created verse from what we denied, with the stuff left under the rug. As their ashtrays overflowed and they pounded typewriter keys, their truth loosened onto the page and heralded a revolution of honesty.
We need those crazy fragile ones back on the center shelf. Enough with fiction for a while. Enough with thinking it isn’t the obscene power of the AR-15 that is slaughtering us. Enough with thinking that Trump isn’t motivated solely to further fatten his paunch. Enough with thinking these moral right-wingers have morals, or at least the same ones that you and I share. You know, like caring that babies are murdered at school or church or anywhere a deranged angry white man with an assault weapon cuts them down. If you still read Facebook “news” with conviction or scroll down your Twitter feed believing those 140 or now 280 characters, then wake up, you are being made the fool.
Hate breeds hate, right? Remember that one from kindergarten? We have been lead into a labyrinth of falsehoods from the naked emperor to those scurry to do his bidding. Time to taste the bitter pill. Face the hard facts. We have violated our selves. Our women. Our poor. Our neighbors. Our small towns and big cities. Our planet. Continue reading →